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Pop: Listen to this

Check out these albums

Published December 3, 2006

More music gift ideas

Frank Sinatra

Boxed set: Sinatra: Vegas (Reprise)

In stores: Now

Why we care: This impossibly cool CD-DVD set collects five of the Chairman's previously unreleased Sin City shows, spanning from a swaggering 1961 gig to a wistful 1987 adieu. With all apologies to Chicago and New York, Las Vegas was really Sinatra's kind of town.

Why we like it: The 1966 Sands show features the coolest backing band ever: Count Basie conducted by Quincy Jones. Plus you can't beat Frank's hepster stage banter. During I've Got You Under My Skin, as the brassy orchestra revs its engines, Sinatra warns, "We're gonna take this here building and move it three feet that way - NOW! Hold onto your handbags!"

Reminds us of: Walking through Caesars Palace at 2 a.m. - lover on your arm and the greatest vocalist of all time cutting through the casino clatter.

Download these: The Lady Is a Tramp (1961), the Rat Pack-skewering Monologue (1966)

Grade: A

Sean Daly, Times pop music critic


Robert Plant

Boxed set: Nine Lives (Rhino)

In stores: Now

Why we care: One of rock's most flamboyant, wildly tressed frontmen collects all nine of his vastly underrated Zep-free solo discs (this includes those Rockin' at Midnight Honeydrippers). Also featured are scores of bonus tracks, a DVD doc and in-depth liner notes that give rather refreshing cred to Plant's preferred guest drummer: Phil Collins.

Why we like it: "Lighten up, baby, I'm in love with you!" Plant's solo work maintained his randy-mystic Zep rep, but it was also far more polished and pop-based than his time with Jimmy Page. Instead of using the hammer of the gods to forge his music, Plant opted for sly synths and steely guitars, creating a tingly den of Zen. 1988's Now and Zen and 1990's Manic Nirvana make for a dizzying one-two punch.

Reminds us of: Led Zeppelin for sensitive types.

Download these: Far Post, Big Log, Tie Dye on the Highway, Hurting Kind (I've Got My Eyes on You), 29 Palms

Grade: B+



The Cure, Flesh for Lulu, Bauhaus & More

Boxed set: The Gothic Box (Rhino)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Those raccoon-eyed Cure fans from high school grew up and got happy (well, hopefully), but two decades later, their preferred '80s-born pop remains just as dark, antisocial and gloomily addictive. As this four-disc CD-DVD set repeatedly shows, the goth boys and ghouls were both fiendish and fiendishly catchy.

Why we like it: The set comes wrapped in a black bustier, reminding us that no one does box sets like the folks at Rhino Records. Smart essays in the liner notes put the pounding synths, prickly guitars and droning vocals into proper context: The best goth was about creating a community rather than shutting out the world.

Reminds us of: John Hughes movies, dark 'n' dreary Sundays, hating the prom king, craving the prom queen.

Download these: Bauhaus' She's in Parties, Flesh for Lulu's I Go Crazy, the Cult's Rain

Grade: B


[Last modified December 1, 2006, 11:59:33]

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